10 Reasons a Two-Row Crossover Will be Your Next (Practical) Performance Ride

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A few tears were shed around Motor Trend HQ when the sun set on the venerable Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Mitsubishi walked away from the icon that made a name for them here in America. Who would be next? Well, instead of living in fear and clutching your performance sedans tightly, we want to bring you hope. The next wave of performance vehicles will come riding high (literally). Why? Here are 10 reasons your future performance ride will be a two-row crossover.

Sales Popularity

Pictured: The best-selling Honda CR-V crossover

We can all look back on 2015 as the year the crossover surpassed the midsize sedan in new vehicle sales. Popularity has its perks. With such a rich segment, it’s safer for automakers to take risks and try new things. This means that when the segment takes off, even the more timid automakers will likely be willing to jump in and give it a go.

Common Powertrains

Sharing powertrains across several platforms is one way automakers have been using to reduce the cost of producing a wide range of models. With so much more cost-sharing happening at many more automakers, it’s only a matter of time until the performance engines find their ways into even more vehicles. Take Ford, for example. The Escape is built on the C1 compact platform, which also underpins the Focus. How about that turbocharged, 2.3-liter I-4, cribbed from the Mustang and shoehorned into the Focus hatchback with an all-wheel-drive system? Ford Escape RS anyone?

Turbocharging

The major thing separating the Mercedes-Benz CLA250 and the bonkers CLA AMG is the turbocharger. For the mainstream model, you fit a small, simple, responsive, and fuel-efficient turbo, and for the hot model you upgrade that to a bigger unit with more technology. With the turbo resurgence going on, it’s only a matter of time before both the base model and the hopped-up ones are separated by one piece of hardware and a few lines of code.

Hybrid Powertrains

Hybrid supercars such as the McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 Spyder show us the way forward. Banish all thoughts of first-gen Prius hatchbacks from your mind, and instead picture those hypercars. Sure, there’s the efficiency to be had, but those cars showed us that the electric motor could be used to supplement the internal combustion engine in an additive way. In the forthcoming Acura NSX, the hybrid system and the instant response of its electric motors will be used to fill in the blanks and erase any hint of turbo lag. As battery technology improves and becomes cheaper, the inevitable outcome is a breed of hybrid that follows after the example set by those front-running hypercars. Bigger batteries, bigger motors, and more fun.

They’re Car-Based

Anyone remember some of the original high-performance SUVs? You know, the GMC Typhoon, Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, and Chevrolet Trailblazer SS (pictured). Although there is a certain crowd those fast SUVs catered to, they weren’t exactly selling in huge numbers. Part of that may have been refinement. Ride quality of the truck-based SUV has always been a weak point, and with nearly all of the current crossovers sharing a platform with comfortable passenger cars, it’ll be a matter of tightening up the suspension instead of trying to make it comfortable.

Luxury Performance Two-Row Crossovers

The trickledown effect will take a few of the sorts of things that become successful for a brand’s more expensive offerings and move them down market when the technology becomes cheaper. Adaptive cruise control? Once only found on the Merecedes-Benz S-Class and Lexus LS, it can now be optioned on the Subaru Impreza. We compared four of the hottest German crossovers in the business this last year, and boy, were they fun. What separates these from their more pedestrian platform-mates? Often, some suspension modifications, a little more boost, and some fancy trim.

Nissan Juke NISMO

Nissan is like your one friend who shows up incredibly early to the party. The Juke is a performance crossover, but it came before they were cool. If only they would have thrown that enthusiasm at a modern Sentra SE-R Spec-V, but that’s another topic. The Juke’s playful chassis and fairly responsive transmission (not just for a CVT) coupled with the stout turbocharged I-4 add up to make it more fun to drive than its styling and EPA class seem to suggest.

Subaru Forester XT

Although the Nissan Juke was a bit of an extroverted early take on the performance crossover, the Subaru Forester XT was a bit more reserved. The 2004 Subaru Forester XT, not exactly hair-raising on its own, hid a surprising secret. A turbocharger and some software tweaking were all that separated it from the powerful and sporty WRX.

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT

The Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT was not the first but was definitely one of the more popular high-performance SUVs. Not only does the Jeep occupy a place in between luxury and mainstream, but the SRT also took it to SUVs a class above, such as the Mercedes-Benz ML55, which retailed for far more. Think about it: Jeep merely put the high-output version of the Dodge engine into the Grand Cherokee, a move sure to be mirrored by automakers with their crossovers.

Mitsubishi said so

During the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show, Christian Seabaugh got a chance to sit down with Don Swearingen, the executive vice president of Mitsubishi Motors North America. We, of course, asked about the Lancer Evolution.

“MT: Where does that leave the Lancer Evolution?

Swearingen: I think you’ll see performance move more to CUV; I think you’ll see a blend of combustion engine and electric. We’ve been doing some activities up at Pikes Peak and getting some great performance out of our vehicles, so I think that’s where you’ll see performance from us moving forward. It’s a new direction.”

The Lancer Evolution is what put Mitsubishi on the map for many millennials, who are just now moving into real full-time jobs. These are the people who will be looking for their first new performance vehicle in a few years—if not now. With the cancellation of the Evo, we honestly thought that might have been the first sign of Mitsubishi throwing in the towel. Clearly, that’s not the case.

Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Evolution, anyone?